Samarkand and Bukhara are magic names. Situated in Uzbekistan know fot its fabled cities, ceramic clad monuments, vast deserts and a genuinely hospitable people with their two thousand years tradition for receiving traveller on the Great Silk Road, Uzbekistan is the ultimate MICE destination.
It is a much-travelled region, many well-known conquerors passed through the land. Alexander the Great spent two years around Samarkand 327 BC. The Muslim Arabs conquered the region in the eighth century; Genghis Khan and his Mongols overran its territory in 1220. In the 1300s, Timur, known in the west as Tamerlane, built an empire with its capital at Samarkand. In 1865, Russia occupied Tashkent and by the end of the 19th century, Russia had conquered all of Central Asia. Uzbekistan declared independence on September 1, 1991.
Uzbekistan is a new and untapped destination. It has an efficient national airline with direct flights to many European cities. Turkish Airlines has numerous flights to the region: twice daily to Tashkent and several weekly flights to Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva (Urgench) among other Uzbek cities, visa-less entry for ninety countries, helicopters, high speed (Talgo) trains, reasonably priced internal flights, and excellent guides.
The hotel situation has been improving rapidly with international chains entering the market, not to mention the new Silk Road Samarkand complex with eight new hotels opened in Samarkand including two 5 star hotels and plans for a similar development in Bukhara. Another strong point is the myriad small boutique hotels, usually traditional houses and buildings converted into small hotels run by families brilliantly situated in the historical parts of the cities that add a very authentic option.
However the main strength of the destination is the openness and the flexibility shown by the tourist professionals in accepting new ideas and projects. It is without doubt one of the most bespoke destinations for MICE. Uzbekistan is the ultimate incentive destination with an almost unlimited potential for personalizing operations and adapting to totally different specifications.
Our agency was founded by Choista Said Aminova an ex-Intourist Guide once private companies were permitted post-independence. Her daughter Nigina joined the team and has acquired considerable experience in organising incentives and trips with high revenue potential.
The market then was largely limited to the classic organised group. She put together a team that, for the first time could provide both bespoke events as well as tailor made leisure travel solution. With offices both in Tashkent and Samarkand, the team offers unrivalled experience of this new and challenging destination while enjoying exceptional relationships with major hotels and services as well as a special rapport with new, independent event suppliers in addition to MICE and event venues that comes from local implantation and relationships built up over the years. We have worked for over 20 years with leading European travel and MICE agencies, with a primary focus for organising tailor made programmes throughout Central Asia. We are the first agency in Central Asia to offer MICE solutions. We have the chance to work at the very heart of the Silk Route where it is possible to conserve the mythic appeal of this destination with magical and wonderful events.
Samarkand & Silk Road
Ever since James Elroy Flecker and his poem Golden Journey to Samarkand written in 1913 the name Samarkand causes a yearning to go forth and discover the distant Orient.
Samarkand the city of turquoise domes was at the very centre of the fabled Silk Roads with its origins tracing back to the 7th centaury BC.
Tamerlane (1336-1405) who was a descendent of Genghis Khan, but a Turkic-speaking and steeped in Persian and Islamic culture was it’s main architect. Most of its emblematic monuments date from this golden Timurid period. The Gur Emir is his tomb. A mere 10 minutes away is the Registan perhaps the architectural piece de resistance of the city and a bit further down the Bibi Khanun Mosque. Finally but probably the most spectacular is the Shah-i-Zinda.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Samarkand represents with the most significant stages of Central Asian cultural and political history. More modern but as exciting is the Siob Bazar. A very recent addition to the city is the Silk Road Samarkand complex, the Eternal City with a 3500 seats Convention Centre, exhibition Halls and 8 hotels including two in the 5 star category built along a canal.
The historic centre of Bukhara is more than two thousand years old. It is one of the best examples of well-preserved Islamic cities of Central Asia of the 10th to 17th centuries, with an urban fabric that has remained largely intact. Bukhara, at the crossroads of ancient trade routes was one of the largest cities of central Asia. Its urban layout and buildings had a profound influence on the evolution and planning of towns in a wide region of Central Asia. But even more important one must remember that between the 9th and 16th centuries, Bukhara was the largest centre for Muslim theology, particularly on Sufism, with over two hundred mosques and more than a hundred madrasas. There are medusas in Bukhara, built in the 1500s, which still have students today.
This historic part of the city, which is in effect an open-air museum, combines the city’s long history in a single ensemble. UNESCO, in naming Bukhara a World Heritage site, states: “It is the most complete example of a medieval city in Central Asia, with an urban fabric that has remained largely intact.” It exudes a beguiling, old-world atmosphere.
Walk around the area for a fist discovery of Bukhara which was a teeming commercial centre during the heyday of the Silk Road, the trade domes where the visitor can test his or her bargaining skills.
This walled city dates from the 10th century. It is an open-air architectural, cultural, and historical museum. Of course it is one of Uzbekistan’s UNESCO-listed treasures.
Khiva is not old if one goes by Samarkand and Bukhara standards but it’s the city that gives you the impression of a step back into mediaeval times.
Visiting Khiva is to wander on foot around the city. The idea is to ambled through the labyrinth of narrow mud-walled alleyways and admire the spectacular blue ceramic tiles embedded in the buildings’ outer walls, the sculptured doors, visit the many monuments with pauses at the Mirzaboshi teahouse, centrally located! All this surrounded by crowds of local visitors who often outnumber the foreign visitors. With a bit of luck one can come upon a local wedding crowd: a bride in a full-blown white meringue dress, train, tiara and all with her tuxedoed groom.
Bushkashi & Yurt Camp
Once we quit the main road between Samarkand and Bukhara, the countryside changes totally and the vast expanse of the steppe appears with our camp at the end of the road. Yurts have been in use at least since the 13th century, and there are indications that the design is much older. Possibility of organising an exclusive Bushkashi (not possible between mid May till mid September because of the heat). A local version of polo with 50 cavaliers this is probably one of the few places in the world where you can still witness this spectacle. Described by Kessel in his emblematic book “Les Cavaliers”, the Bushkashi is an Afghan equestrian game. Bushkashi is often compared to polo. Both games are played between people on horseback, both involve propelling an object toward a goal, and both get fairly rough though Bushkashi far more so. Competition is typically fierce. Riders usually wear heavy clothing and head protection against other players with whips and boots. The boots usually have high heels that lock into the saddle of the horse to help the rider lean on the side of the horse while trying to pickup the “ball’ which is the headless carcass of a goat. The goal of the game is simply to grab the carcass, go around a flag or marker at one end of the field and then throw it into a scoring circle (the “Circle of Justice”) at the other end. Horses used in Bushkashi also undergo severe training and are considered very precious by their owners the riders carry a whip, often in their teeth, to fend off opposing horses and riders.